Shabalov Wins STL Thanksgiving Open, GM Norm Tourney Begins
By Mike Wilmering & Mike Kummer   
November 28, 2011
RobsonvsShaba.jpgSAINT LOUIS, November 28, 2011 -- A total of 82 players, including seven grandmasters, spent their Thanksgiving weekend at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis for the 2011 Thanksgiving Open. GM Alex Shabalov took clear first with a score of 5.5/6, earning him the top prize of $1,600. He was a half-point ahead of his opponent GM Sam Shankland heading into the final round, but he held the draw to secure first.

“I prepared before the game thinking the Caro Kann was an ingenious choice because I expected either the advanced variation Caro Kann or 3. Nc3 from white,” Shankland said. “But when he played the Panov attack, all I kept remembering was I had 20 different endgames where I was slightly worse but drawing, but no real winning chances.”

Shankland tied for second place with GM Ray Robson,who defeated IM Danny Rensch in round six. Robson and Shankland each took home $800.

Shabalov’s stellar performance included a round-five victory over GM Gregory Kaidanov and a round-three win over Robson.


In the final round Spencer Finegold drew WIM Zeynuk, and Nick Karlow defeated James McLaughlin to split the U2200 prize four ways with Mark Ferber and Alexander Velikanov. CCSCSL Scholastic Coordinator Alex Vergilesov took home $175 in a four-way split for the U2000 prize with a nice win to cap a strong tourney.

GM Ben Finegold’s student, Matt Larson, scored 4.5/6 to earn clear first in the U1800 section and $1,000, while Chess Club regular Nathan Phan drew his round-six opponent to win the U1600 prize of $450.

In the U1400 Section, Chess Club regular Mike Buckley shocked everyone by winning his section with 5.5/6. 

"I just played boring chess, making sure I didn't drop any pieces, then picked my spots," he said.  

He has been playing at the Chess Club every Tuesday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoon for the past year. Buckley said he also has played GM Ben Finegold in ladder games recently and has been learning from his mistakes in the post-game analysis. Going into the tourney with a rating of just 595, Mike was paired up every round and never backed down. He started playing less than two years ago, and all his hard work finally paid off as he earned a $1,000 payday.

Click here for crosstables, games and round-by-round recaps of the 2011 Thanksgiving Open.

A few of the tournament participants are staying another week in Saint Louis to compete in the CCSCSL Invitational, the first-ever GM Norm tourney to be held at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. GM Andre Diamant, GM Mesgen Amanov, IM Danny Rensch and IM Angelo Young will join six others in a nine-round, round-robin tourney with GM Norm (and IM Norm) chances on the line. The players are:

No. Title Name FIDE Rating Federation
1. GM Giorgi Kacheishvili 2590 GEO
2. GM Mesgen Amanov 2524 TKM
3. IM Marc Arnold 2504 USA
4. GM Andre Diamant 2489 BRA
5. IM Irina Krush 2476 USA
6. IM Greg Shahade 2459 USA
7. IM Darwin Yang 2442 USA
8. IM Daniel Rensch 2416 USA
9. IM Angelo Young 2350 PHI
10. WGM Tatev Abrahamyan 2264 USA
Non-GM players need 6.5/9 to secure a GM Norm, and Tatev Abrahamyan also can secure an IM norm with a score of 4.5/9. The tournament is scheduled to run November 29 through December 3. Stay tuned to for live games and updates. The schedule for the rounds is as follows:
Date Time Event
Tuesday, Nov 29 4:00pm Opening Ceremony (Open to the Public)
5:00pm Round 1
Wednesday, Nov 30 11:00am Round 2
5:00pm Round 3
Thursday, Dec 1 11:00am Round 4
5:00pm Round 5
Friday, Dec 2 11:00am Round 6
5:00pm Round 7
Saturday, Dec 3 11:00am Round 8
5:00pm Round 9
10:00pm Closing Ceremony (Open to the Public)

The Details

  • Time Control: 40/90, G/30 plus 30 sec. from move 1 increment
  • Average Rating: 2451
  • Points Needed for GM Norm: 6.5/9
  • Points Needed for IM Norm: 4.5/9
  • Prize Fund: Few norm tournaments feature prizes, but the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis went a step above and is offering place prizes for first through third ($1,000, $750, $500) in addition to other conditions for the players, including hotel and travel money.